Updated: August 11, 2018, added a poem by Luis Lazaro Tijerina
Hundreds of thousands of people showed up across the United States at more than 600 gatherings three weeks ago. They came out to protest Donald Trump‘s “zero tolerance” immigration policy in highly choreographed, Democratic Party-affiliated “Families Belong Together” rallies and marches. Liberal celebrities marched and spoke. Local, state, and federal Democratic Party politicians and office-holders gave passionate speeches denouncing Trump’s separation of Central American migrant children from their parents at the southern U.S. border.
Marchers carried signs expressing their concern for children and families. Here are some of the messages written on the posters displayed at these gatherings:
“I Raise my Voice Not so I can Shout but So that Those Without a Voice Can be Heard”
“Do All Lives Still Matter?”
“What Would Mr. Rogers Say?”
(The issue that sparked this remarkable outpouring has already been pushed off the front pages and the cable news headlines by the resurgent RussiaGate story, brought to new intensity by Trump’s “spectacular debacle” alongside Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland. It is a victim of the all-powerful “now we see you, now we don’t” U.S. news cycle – this even as nearly two-thirds of the migrant children criminally separated have yet to be reunited with their parents and as evidence emerges that the Trump administration intended for the family separations to be permanent.)
“Emaciated Babies”: 50,000 Yemeni Children May Have Died in 2017
We have yet to learn of any large and widespread U.S. demonstrations on behalf of the children and families of Yemen, where the U.S. is deeply complicit in the creation of a situation that “looks,” in the words of the United Nations’ humanitarian chief, “like the Apocalypse.” UNICEF reported last year that a child dies from preventable causes on the average of once every 10 minutes in Yemen.
As the Associated Press (AP) reported last May, roughly 3 million Yemeni women and children are “acutely malnourished; another 400,000 children are fighting for their lives.” Further:
“Nearly a third of Yemen’s population — 8.4 million of its 29 million people — rely completely on food aid or else they would starve. That number grew by a quarter over the past year…. Aid agencies warn that parts of Yemen could soon start to see widespread death from famine. More and more people are reliant on aid that is already failing to reach people. …It is unknown how many have died, since authorities are not able to track cases. Save the Children late last year estimated that 50,000 children may have died in 2017 of extreme hunger or disease (emphasis added), given that up to 30 percent of children with untreated cases of severe acute malnutrition die.”
The AP told the heartbreaking story of Umm Mizrah and her children, tragic drops in the bucket of what could become one of the biggest humanitarian catastrophes of the last half-century:
“The young mother stepped onto the scale for the doctor. Even with all her black robes on, she weighed only 84 pounds …The doctor’s office is covered with dozens of pictures of emaciated babies who have come through Al-Sadaqa Hospital in Aden …Mothers like Umm Mizrah…skip meals, sleep to escape the gnawing in their stomachs. They hide bony faces and emaciated bodies in voluminous black abaya robes and veils…The doctor asked the mother to get back on the scale holding her son, Mizrah. At 17 months, he was 5.8 kilograms (12.8 pounds) — around half the normal weight for his age. He showed all the signs of ‘severe acute malnutrition,’ the most dire stage of hunger. His legs and feet were swollen, he wasn’t getting enough protein. When the doctor pressed a finger into the skin of his feet, the indentation lingered.”
Things have gotten worse in the last two and half months. According to Lisa Grande, head of the UN humanitarian effort in Yemen, “8.5 million people that we describe as being pre-famine… when they wake up in the morning, they have no idea if they will eat that day…by the end of this year, another 10 million Yemenis will be in that situation.”
Two and a half weeks ago, special PBS correspondent Jane Ferguson related the plight of Maimona Shaghadar, who “suffers the agony of starvation in silence. No longer able to walk or talk, at 11 years old, little Maimona’s emaciated body weighs just 24 pounds…Every day,” a nurse told Ferguson in a remote Yemen hospital, medical personnel “see these sorts of cases.”
Cholera, a prominent 19th-century disease, has become epidemic there, thanks to the collapse of water sanitation. Cholera has already killed thousands of Yemeni civilians, children especially, and a million Yemenis are currently infected. Yemen is now home to what Ferguson calls “the worst cholera outbreak in modern history. Now every time the rains comes, people fall ill.”
The cause? In “mainstream” U.S. media, the Yemeni children and families suffering this near “apocalypse” are victims of a three-year-old war between Yemen’s Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels who hold the country’s north, and a Saudi Arabian-led coalition, armed and backed by the United States. But there is little evidence of significant Iranian involvement in Yemen. The desperately poor nation’s “civil war” is a remarkably one-sided affair in which the world’s only Superpower (the United States) has been providing critical support for what amounts to the crucifixion of millions of innocent children and families. Combined with a vicious economic blockade, the US-Saudi coalition’s relentless bombing campaign has collapsed Yemen’s economy, leaving two-thirds of the population to depend outside on food aid for survival. The air onslaughts have devastated much of Yemen’s basic infrastructure so that more than half the population lacks access to safe drinking water – the key cause of the cholera epidemic. In a recent trip deep into Yemen’s countryside, Ferguson found a Doctors Without Borders cholera treatment center that had been crushed into rubble by a U.S.-Saudi airstrike the day before – an obvious war crime. “It was just about to open its doors to patients,” Ferguson reports.
Ferguson spoke to Dr. Ali Al Motaa, a Yemeni college professor who did his doctorate in the US. “The missiles that kill us,” Motaa said, “American-made. The planes that kill us, American-made. The tanks, Abrams, American-made. You are saying to me, where is America? America is the whole thing.”
By Ferguson’s account, from deep inside rebel-controlled territory:
“The aerial bombing campaign has not managed to dislodge the rebels, but has hit weddings, hospitals and homes. The U.S. military supports the Saudi coalition with logistics and intelligence. The United States it also sells the Saudis and coalition partners many of the bombs they drop on Yemen. In the mountains outside the capital, we gained exclusive access to the site where the Houthis store unexploded American-made bombs, like this 2000-pound Mark 84 bomb made in Garland, Texas. It landed in the middle of the street in the capital, we are told.”
That was before he U.S.-Saudi forces, with the Trump administration’s approval, decided to launch an offensive against the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, through which almost all the food and medicine coming into Houthi-held Yemen passes. As Al Jazeera reported three days ago, the UN is warning that “the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is worsening as tens of thousands of families are displaced by the Saudi-UAE coalition offensive to retake the strategic port city….the relentless air raids and lack of aid are making an already dire humanitarian crisis even worse for the civilians who live in the region….tens of thousands of families have been displaced from Hodeidah as a result of the fierce fighting.
The U.S. is involved in direct as well as indirect assault on Yemen. Yemen was home to the first known U.S. drone attack outside Afghanistan in 2002. Hundreds of U.S. drone and other airstrikes have targeted Yemen since 2009.
Trump drew his first military blood in Yemen. U.S. Navy special forces carried out a raid—planned by the Obama administration and handed off to the incoming Trump team—that killed 25 civilians, including 10 children in the mountainous Yakla region of Yemen’s Al Bayda province. One of the children killed was an 8-year-old girl, Nawar al-Awlaki, daughter of the Islamist preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed on Barack Obama’s orders in a September 2011 U.S. drone strike in Yemen. Nawar’s older brother, 16-year-old Abdulrahman, was killed in a second Obama-commanded drone strike soon afterward.
Trump’s continuation of the U.S. slaughter of al-Awlaki’s children was consistent with his campaign claim that he would kill the relatives of terrorist suspects—a war crime. “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families; when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” Trump pronounced on Fox News in December 2015.
A PBS NewsHour report earlier this month describes the Yemen tragedy as a “man-made” catastrophe. A more historically specific characterization would be “Empire-made” or “Washington-made.” As Bill Van Auken accurately reported on the World Socialist Web Site five weeks ago:
“This total war against an entire population…would be impossible without the uninterrupted support—military and political—of US imperialism since its outset…The US, together with its main NATO allies the UK and France, has supplied the planes, warships, bombs, missiles and shells used to devastate Yemen and slaughter its people. In his eight years in office, President Barack Obama presided over some $115 billion in arms sales to the monarchical dictatorship in Riyadh. The Trump administration, which has sought to forge an anti-Iran axis with Saudi Arabia, the other reactionary Gulf oil sheikhdoms and Israel, has touted arms deals with Riyadh that potentially would amount to $110 billion.”
“The Pentagon has given direct and indispensable aid to the Saudi-led onslaught, providing midair refueling for the planes that bomb Yemeni civilians, staffing a joint command center in Riyadh with US intelligence and logistics officers and reinforcing the Saudi-UAE blockade of the country with American warships. Recently, US Green Berets have been deployed with Saudi ground forces to assist in their anti-Yemen operations. Under the banner of the ‘war on terror,’ the Pentagon is waging its own air war in Yemen, conducting at least 130 air and drone strikes in 2017, quadruple the number in 2016…The Trump administration gave the go-ahead for the current siege of Hodeidah Pentagon officials have reported that US officers are helping to select targets in the port city.”
The Trump administration’s funding and equipping of the savage war on Yemen shares three key characteristics with the “zero tolerance” immigration policy that Trump was recently forced to (partially and haltingly) rescind. First, it unconscionably uses innocent children and families as hostages and pawns in the advance of White House policy goals.
Second, it is richly consistent with U.S. policy stretching far back in history (see this on the long U.S. record of family separation and this on the long U.S. history of directly and indirectly attacking and killing children and other civilians in foreign nations).
Third, it is consistent with Barack Obama’s record. The Obama administration backed the Saudi-led Arab assault on Yemen. It also (as few marching against Trump’s border policy seem to know or care) responded to Central American migration and asylum-seeking with a policy of aggressive deterrence and detention – a policy that included the caging of children.
Why No Mass Marches for Yemeni Children?
Clearly the murder of tens of thousands of (Yemeni) children is a bigger crime than the undoubted transgression of traumatically if (hopefully temporarily) separating 2300 Central American children form their migrant parents. Why don’t hundreds of thousands of U.S.-Americans march on behalf of Yemeni children and families killed, maimed, starved, sickened, and otherwise placed at grave risk by Washington and its Arab allies?
Differences of geographical proximity and familiarity are part of the explanation. Equally if not more significant: the dominant U.S media’s systematic under-reporting of U.S, imperial aggression in the Middle East; that media’s portrayal of is the Yemen war as a regional Sunni-Shia and Saudi-Iranian conflict in which the U.S. is only peripherally involved; the Yemeni victims’ status as Muslim Others who are linked in the dominant U.S. media and politics culture with the officially U.S,- and Israel-demonized state of Iran (a nation that all too unmentionably looks like a model of democracy, social justice, and women’s rights in comparison to its regional arch-enemy and Washington’s “good friend” the absolutist and arch-reactionary state of Saudi Arabia). For these and other reasons, the Democratic Party establishment sees no political advantage in confronting Trump on U.S. Yemen policy, a policy in which both reigning U.S. political parties are deeply complicit.
Originally published at Counterpunch, Jul 20, 2018
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Paul Street is an independent radical-democratic policy researcher, journalist, historian, author and speaker based in Iowa City, Iowa, and Chicago, Illinois. He is the author of seven books to date: Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2004); Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York: Routledge, 2005); Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis: a Living Black Chicago History (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007); Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2008); The Empire’s New Clothes: Barack Obama in the Real World of Power (Paradigm, 2010); (with Anthony DiMaggio) Crashing the Tea Party: Mass Media and the Campaign to Remake American Politics (Paradigm, 2011); and They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014). Paul writes regularly for Truthdig, Telesur English, Counterpunch, Black Agenda Report, Z Magazine and Dandelion Salad.
The U.S.-Backed War That Is Tormenting Yemen
by David Moulton
Aug. 1, 2018
A WAR has raged in Yemen for three years now. Thousands have been killed directly in military operations, and millions more ravaged by hunger and disease as a U.S.-backed coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has bombed infrastructure and imposed a suffocating air and naval blockade.
The coalition is attempting to crush the Houthi rebels who control the northern part of the country. The result has been a bloody stalemate with no end in sight.
The UN has repeatedly referred to Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. In the past year, the country has suffered the worst cholera epidemic ever recorded, with more than 1 million cases. Currently, an estimated 8.5 million people are at risk of death by starvation, and an additional 10 million may be pushed to the brink of famine by the end of the year if fighting continues, according to the UN.
With a total population of 28 million, Yemen is facing a catastrophe practically unheard of anywhere in the world in the 21st century.
Last month, a new phase of the war began when Saudi Arabia and the UAE launched an attack on the port city of Al Hudaydah on the west coast of Yemen.
Since the start of the conflict, Al Hudaydah has been the main lifeline through which a trickle of food, fuel and medicine enters the country. This latest aggression threatens the last means by which the people of Yemen have managed to stave off mass death. For this reason, Oxfam and other international aid agencies begged the U.S. not to allow their allies to attack the port.
On June 11, however, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo disregarded these pleas, issuing a deliberately vague statement that gave the coalition all the permission it needed. Later that same week, the U.S. and Britain blocked a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire.
For the last month, the battle for Al Hudaydah has continued to rage. As with the rest of the war, the results have been inconclusive. UN efforts to negotiate a truce have failed, and the Saudi-led coalition has demanded nothing less than total surrender. In response, the Houthis have dug in deeper.
As usual, civilians have borne most of the suffering. Tens of thousands of families have had to flee Al Hudaydah as conditions continue to worsen.
The Origins of the Catastrophe
Yemen is a small, densely populated country on the southwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula.
In many ways, it’s an anomaly in the region. While its Gulf state neighbors—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE– are all oil-rich monarchies, Yemen has not been ruled by a king since the 1960s. It’s also by far the poorest of the Gulf states. Before the start of this war, its per capita annual gross domestic product was just $1,572.
For decades, Yemen’s main export has been migrant workers, with Yemenis providing cheap labor to Saudi Arabia and other wealthy countries in the region. Yemen’s domestic economy depended on remittances from abroad.
In 2013, however, Saudi Arabia began a policy of “Saudizing” its workforce. This meant kicking out more than half a million Yemeni workers and constructing a 1,100-mile security fence along the southern border with Yemen to prevent unauthorized crossings.
Yemen’s political history is volatile and complex. Until 1990, it was divided into two countries, North and South Yemen. Partition was the legacy of Western colonialism and interventions by other Arab regimes.
Unity was achieved through a civil war, and many southerners never accepted the legitimacy of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. He was unpopular among many in the north as well, but still managed to hold on to power for decades.
The Houthis, also known as Ansar Allah, emerged in the 1990s as an indigenous Yemeni movement led by Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi. From their origins as a social and religious movement, the Houthis gradually grew more political, objecting to the corruption of Saleh’s government and the obscene gap between rich and poor that consigned millions of Yemenis to poverty.
In the first decade of the 21st century, the Houthis were radicalized by the war in Iraq. Saleh was an ally in George W. Bush’s “war on terror,” and the Houthis saw him as too subservient to American and Israeli interests.
In 2004, Hussein al-Houthi was assassinated by Saleh’s forces. Leadership passed to his younger brothers, and their followers continued to wage an intermittent guerilla war against the central government.
Then in 2011, the Arab Spring came to Yemen.
As with other countries, Yemen’s uprising was really a kaleidoscope of different movements, some of them in conflict with each other. There were feminists, pro-democracy activists, socialists, southern separatists, Shia insurgents and Sunni militants. Their demands varied, but they were united in rejecting the corruption of Saleh’s regime and the inequality of Yemeni society. The protests were largely nonviolent, and succeeded in forcing Saleh to step down.
Saleh transferred power to his deputy Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. Hadi quickly proved unpopular, however, due to his inability to materially improve the lives of ordinary Yemenis. In the eyes of many, he represented the will of the wealthy Gulf states more than his own country. His willingness to let Barack Obama carry out drone strikes against alleged terrorists in Yemen was widely seen as an outrageous violation of national sovereignty.
In 2014, another mass uprising exploded following the doubling of fuel prices, and the Houthis took control of the capital of Sana’a. Hadi was forced to resign and fled to the south of the country where he announced he was reversing his resignation. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and a coalition of mercenary forces then began their military intervention to reinstall Hadi as president.
Millions have suffered horribly, but very little has changed politically after three years of war. The Houthis continue to hold Sana’a and the northwest corner of Yemen, an area which includes about three-quarters of the population. Even in the south, Hadi has little support. He has spent most of the conflict in Saudi Arabia.
The Role of the U.S.
From the start, the Saudi-led coalition has enjoyed the backing of the U.S. and other Western powers, including France, Canada and the UK.
In 2015, President Obama gave the initial green light for the Saudi-UAE intervention. In addition to diplomatic cover, the U.S. sold the coalition billions of dollars’ worth of weapons, shared intelligence and provided midair refueling for fighter jets. An undisclosed number of U.S. Special Forces have also fought alongside the coalition.
To justify their role in the carnage, U.S. officials have repeatedly distorted the nature of the conflict. In December 2017, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley gave a speech claiming the Houthis were using weapons from Iran to strike Saudi Arabia. An independent panel of experts disagreed, finding no reason to conclude the missile fragments Haley presented were Iranian-made.
At the time, the Trump administration was looking for excuses to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. As part of this general policy of hawkishness, the U.S. has sought to portray the Houthis as proxies of Iran. But there is more to this question than meets the eye.
As a militant Shia movement, the Houthis do have some ideological affinities with the Iranian regime, as well as Hezbollah in Lebanon. Some of their propaganda is inspired by Iran.
Unlike both Hezbollah and Iran, however, the Houthis follow the Zaidi sect, a branch of Shi’ism that exists almost exclusively in northern Yemen.
Moreover, being an ally is not the same as being a puppet. The Houthis have demonstrated independence from Iran in the past. In late 2014, for example, Iran counseled the rebels against taking Sana’a. They chose to disregard the advice.
Given the tight Saudi blockade, it is hard to believe that Iran would be able to smuggle in weapons on a large scale. Nor would the Houthis necessarily need them—Yemen has long been awash in weapons, thanks in no small part to the U.S. arms trade.
The War Must End
What is unfolding in Yemen today may well be remembered as the worst famine of the 21st century.
This catastrophe is entirely human-made and preventable. The war belongs as much to the U.S. as it does to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. There may still be time to avert the worst outcome. Some members of Congress, led by Republican Sen. Todd Young of Indiana and Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, have tried introducing legislation to limit U.S. involvement.
So far, however, the war on Yemen has not gotten much attention among the broader U.S. population.
By and large, the corporate media has been shamefully complicit in allowing this tragedy to continue. In the past year, MSNBC, supposedly the network of anti-Trump resistance, managed to run 455 segments on Stormy Daniels, but not a single one on the U.S. war on Yemen.
The lack of attention makes building an antiwar movement difficult, so the left’s first job must be to educate itself and others about the tragedy unfolding in Yemen.
We owe our solidarity to the people suffering through this hell, whose roots lie in decisions made in Washington. The situation may be complex in some respects, but our demands should be simple: Let the refugees in and end the war on Yemen.
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Why the US Silence over Saudi-Al Qaeda Alliance in Yemen?
TheRealNews on Aug 8, 2018
The Associated Press has revealed that the US-backed Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has made secret deals with the local Al Qaida affiliate, AQAP, even recruiting its militants to fight Houthi rebels. Saudi analyst Ali Al-Ahmed says that the US is not just looking the other way — it’s involved.
Updated: August 11, 2018
Children Of Yemen
By Luis Lazaro Tijerina
August 10, 2018
When the children died in Yemen,
How we hung our heads in false remorse,
The world moved on in its dizzy demise,
I walked the streets thinking
of years of waste and the killing darkening
these last decades,
How the time has darken the years to come
on these early August days.
A putrid smell of death from early morning
until the aching heart comes alive at night,
These words is all I have
to express the horror and sorrow,
When the children died in Yemen,
I thought of Thucydides might have
written about our tyrants killing innocents
as if it was nothing but routine business,
like when he wrote about the butchery
between Athens and Sparta,
Then I think of the complicated love
and hate that arose between Hamlet
and starry eyed Ophelia,
Such is fated love and fated rancor
in the hearts of lovers and men.
For me it is better to hate than to love
during these last summer days,
When I think of those children who lived
for only a little while in Yemen.
Yemen, that State that is no longer a State,
A burning pyre for the ashes
of soldiers and the coming victory
of the red laurel leaves around the mountains
and the Gulf of Aden,
I can see the dead children in Yemen,
The world shall not be placated,
Peace is less than a child’s death,
War preferable to the ancient memory
of what we thought ourselves to be,
As children of Yemen scream
for their mothers on a bombed-out bus
in the old province of Saada,
Where not even the birds in the sky sing
a song of affirming life,
Now I leave these words I wrote with Eros
for the children who died in Yemen.
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